Wonder

Angel Oak

Angel Oak, South Carolina
Angel Oak, South Carolina / Andy Langager, Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

If there is a tree with its own character – Angel Oak is one. This is a highly unusual and sometimes even menacing tree. Thousands of people come to see it every year but in the past, it was a fearsome tree to the slaves of local plantation.

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GPS coordinates
32.7171 N 80.0804 W
Location, address
North America, United States, South Carolina, Charleston County, Johns Island, Angel Oak Park, 3688 Angel Oak Road
Trees, Sites of legends, Ghost sites
Species
Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana)
Height
20 m
Circumference
7.7 – 8.5 m (according to different sources of information)
Area of the shade
1,600 m2

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Angel Oak is Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) – a magnificent tree species, a kind of symbol of the American South. Larger Southern live oaks grow elsewhere, e.g. in Louisiana, but Angel Oak could be the most famous one.

The tree definitely is enormous. Contrary to many of the largest Southern live oaks, Angel Oak has a well-defined trunk. People can measure it without discussion whether the measurement includes roots or branches or whether here several trees have grown together into one. The girth is 7.7 m (according to 3.) or 8.5 m.

Angel Oak
Angel Oak / RegalShave, Pixabay / Pixabay license

The height of the tree is 20 m but the most impressive is the width of the crown: the shade of the tree covers approximately 1,600 square meters. The giant branches spread to all sides up to 27 m far from the trunk. (3.) The eerie branches which spread haphazardly away from the giant trunk create an unforgettable sight.

The estimated age of the tree is 400 – 500 years, but, as usual, this is just a guess. Many websites state that the tree is the oldest living thing east of Mississippi, e.g. it is 1500 years old. This is not true – there definitely are older trees in the American South. Sigh… People love to “measure” the trees by their age even if they don’t have a clue about it.

Angel Oak is one of the most visited trees in the USA – there are some 40 thousand visitors per year. The tree has its own address: 3688 Angel Oak Road.

The religious freedom of Carolina attracted many Europeans who belonged to less common and often – persecuted Christian groups. A family of influential London Quakers – Jacob Waight, his wife, and son – came to America in 1675. They received an area of 12,000 acres (some 48 square kilometers) of land from the authorities, promising to set up a town and further distribute the land to the next settlers. His brother Abraham Waight came in 1680 and step by step got more and more land properties from his brother.

Abraham Waight obtained the land with Angel Oak (which by then had to be a fairly large tree) in 1717. This property was called simply Jacob Waightland initially, later also – The Point. Near the oak – to the south from it – was a rice plantation.

History of Angel Oak

17th-19th centuries
Angel Oak with epiphytes
Angel Oak with epiphytes / TaggLight Photography, Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Waight family owned the land for the coming centuries. In 1810 Martha Waight married Justus Angel and this family name later gave the name to the oak tree and the whole plantation, which later became known as Angel Oak Plantation.

20th – 21st centuries

Only in 1959, the descendants of the Waight family (Dorothy Bolt Faist) sold the land with the oak. By that time Angel Oak was well known and the new owners – Mutual Land and Development Company – did their best to preserve the tree. Later, in 1965, the land with the tree was donated to Napoleon Hill – a famous author of motivational books. Unfortunately at this time, the area around the tree and the tree itself was vandalized and the area around the tree was frequented by drug dealers and other shady people.

In 1989 Angel Oak was severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo but, happily, recovered. In 1991 the Angel Oak and park around it is was purchased by the City of Charleston and the tree is tended well now. Access is free, donations are welcome, and will be used for the tree.

Ghost stories

Large and unusual trees around the world seem to create their own universe not only in the living world but also in the realm of human fantasy or… some other world. Angel Oak is one of them.

Angel Oak - tree with its own character
Angel Oak – tree with its own character / Dan J, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

According to local stories, slaves were hanged on the Angel Oak and the tree is cursed. Slaves did not approach the tree. Locals consider also, that the history of the tree goes even deeper: maybe Native Americans buried their dead here.

Thus in 2008, a newly wedded couple on a moonlit night saw glowing shadows of humans all over the tree… hanging on the tree branches. (2.)

Another time a lover decided to carve a heart in the tree in front of his beloved one. At this moment strange noises started around the tree, becoming louder and angrier. At some moment a devilish face appeared in front of them… and then the couple fled away. As they glanced back, a group of glowing figures was around the tree, some of them were hanging from the tree. (2.)

References

  1. Ruth M. Miller, Linda V. Lennon. The Angel Oak Story. 2018. ISBN-10: 1467141380.
  2. Charleston Terrors. Haunted Charleston: Most Haunted Places #7: Angel Oak Tree. Visited on 21st November 2019.
  3. Monumental trees. The Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana). Visited on 21st November 2019.

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The Angel Oak Story


Angel Oak is estimated to be more than 400 years old. The story of the live oak begins with the “purchase” of Johns Island from the Cussoe Indians by a representative of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper in 1675. The land upon which the tree grows was then granted to Abraham Waight in 1717. The oak garnered its name when descendant Martha Waight married Justus Angel. This same family maintained ownership of the property for 242 years. Today, Angel Oak is owned by the City of Charleston.

Native Trees of the Southeast


The diversity of woody plants in the Southeast is unparalleled in North America. Native Trees of the Southeast is a practical, compact field guide for the identification of the more than 225 trees native to the region, from the Carolinas and eastern Tennessee south through Georgia into northern Florida and west through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas into eastern Texas.


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